Cold Weather Dog Training – Socializing Puppies

As fall approaches and the temperatures drop it can be much less appealing to head outside and train. If your dog is already trained and socialized properly then you are in the management stage of training and this won’t matter so much.

Puppies are the ones that can suffer the most at this stage if you keep them indoors. They go through a socialization period from roughly 5 weeks of age to 12 weeks of age. Whatever they see within that time and have a good experience with they will tend to like later on. Whatever they have a bad experience or no experience with they will tend to not like later on.

So just by not having seen certain things can cause fear issues in dogs. This is why it is more common for dogs born in the fall or winter to be afraid of thunderstorms. They went through their socialization period not having heard them. This is also an example of why some people will tell me they think their dog is racist, they only bark at black people. This is merely for the fact that the dog often did not see any black people during their socialization period. Same goes for barking at people with walkers or canes, etc.

In the Spring and Summer it is easy to get outside and expose your pup to these things.

So come fall and winter it is still extremely important to socialize. Don’t wait till Spring, you will have missed your chance to take advantage of this critical stage. YouTube is a great way to find all different kinds of sounds. Make sure you still get out to socialize.

If you would like to learn other tips and tricks to make this easier and ensure your dog is very well socialized and trained, come see us. But whatever you do, make sure you socialize your pup. Missing out on this stage can cause huge fear based problems.

You can contact us for training at

Happy training!

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Training Your Own Service Dog in Alberta

There is a great need for service dogs and up until last year you had to go through an approved organization and the wait list could be over 3 years.  The laws have changed to allow a person to challenge the exam with their own dog and have their dog certified.

We get a lot of people contacting us about training their own service dog so we thought this article might be helpful for anyone who would like to train their own service dog. Things you should know that you probably won’t find anywhere else.

In general the dog needs:

  1. Obedience – Should be proficient at their obedience commands.
  2. Distractions – Should be able to perform all obedience commands in the public and to fairly high distractions.
  3. Keeps to themselves and does not engage anyone else of the public.
  4. Stays within 24 inches of the handler unless part of the assistance dictates otherwise.
  5. Can perform 3 or more specialty tasks to help the handler.

One thing to keep in mind is that obedience is one of the easiest parts of training. Most dogs can be taught each obedience command in 5 days tops. From there it is a matter of distraction training where the dog will perform all of these commands in the distractions you would encounter in the public.

When a client comes here for training for a 4 hour session, 99% of dogs can prove they understand recall, heel, sit, down and stay, but that doesn’t mean they will do the commands everywhere. As we show clients when you increase a distraction level, mistakes go up. Then the dog starts to listen and perform well. We then increase the distractions again and the mistakes go up. This pattern will repeat itself all the way through training.

Which Dog To Pick?

Some dogs are going to be much easier than others to train for passing the service dog test in Alberta. Which dog you pick can make or break your chances of having your own trained service dog.

We classify dogs into 3 main types:

  1. Alpha – Top dog, will use aggression to maintain their position.
  2. Beta – Not the top dog but would take over if there is no suitable leader.
  3. Omega – Has no desire to be boss. Always wants to please and follow.

If you are going to train your own service dog, an Omega will give you the best odds of passing the test. Omegas naturally will not go to seek attention from others but they will accept attention from others. Ironically they are the least intelligent of the 3 categories, Alphas are the most intelligent and will give you the most amount of problems.

People mistakenly think they want a smart dog so they are easy to train, in actuality you want a dog with a high desire to please, they are the easiest to train. The saying “I hope I have a smart dog so they are easy to train” stemmed from the days when Force was primarily used for training. If the dog was smart enough they would figure out what you were trying to get them to do before you would break spirit in the dog. They could do the desired behaviour to get the corrections to stop. If the dog wasn’t quite smart enough and you were using forceful corrections you would often break spirit in the dog before they would figure out what you were trying to get them to do. These dogs would often go into avoidance to move away from you to show respect which to some looks like being stubborn so they would correct them harder.

This is why there is still the argument between Force and Reward trainers. It just depends on which category of dog you are working with as to which may be needed.

In order to be an organization that trains or tests service dogs this is the first requirement on the list from the Alberta Training Standard for Organizations to be Eligible for the Qualified List:

“The organization uses training methods that support the ethical and humane treatment of service dogs that do not cause fear, pain or other negative responses in the dog, for example, no shock collar, prong collar or similar equipment is to be used in the training or testing of a service dog.”

That leaves you with the option of Reward Training. The dogs that do best with only Reward Training are Omegas. Once they learn what you want they just want to keep doing that to make you happy.

If you did Reward Training only with a Beta they will learn very quickly but also learn to manipulate. They are smart enough to learn if they do a bad behaviour you will redirect them with a treat or a toy, in essence, rewarding the negative behaviour (we have friends that would offer their child a present when they were throwing a temper tantrum if they behaved – I’ve never seen a child throw so many tantrums and receive so many presents). Betas will need the tiniest bit of consequence to polish off their training but it sounds like none of that is allowed to train your own service dog.

Alphas are out of the question as a service dog. If a dog has shown any aggression towards other people or animals of any kind you would be best to not waste any time training this dog for a service dog position. These dogs are excellent as police dogs and guardian dogs but really unsuited for service dog status.

Ironically we had an organization in Alberta contact us to certify therapy dogs and the requirements were:

  1. 10 years experience as a dog trainer.
  2. Could not be a reward trainer.

Force training will typically give better obedience and respect. Dogs are taught there is a consequence if they don’t do as they are told.

Reward training will give spirit and character. They will be full of personality but they won’t necessarily respect you or have the obedience you wish to achieve (more true for Betas and Alphas but not Omegas).

In many cases when a service dog was being trained a vest would be used on the dog (actually required for service dogs) and the dog was taught when the vest was on the rules were strict and there was a consequence for not following through. Doing this training for a year or more the dog was conditioned to think if the vest was on they were in work mode and the rules were strict. When the vest was taken off they had freedom.

We had a client who paid $16,000 for a service dog out of province for her child (didn’t want to wait 3 years) and the dog was great with vest on but as soon as the vest came off the dog didn’t want to listen, would pull on leash and a list of other undesirable behaviours. She came for training to learn how to get the dog to listen better when the vest was off. This dog was a Beta. She wouldn’t have had an issue if this dog was Omega or possibly very low Beta.

Betas – have desire to challenge, will tug, go up to people, jump on people, nip, engage other dogs, try to take food, pull on leash among other things. All of these things can fail the dog as a service dog.

Omegas – have no desire to challenge, will not tug, do not go up to strangers on their own accord, will not jump on people, will not go up to other dogs, will not easily take food in your presence (often have to look away from them while offering a treat), will follow on leash. They are very naturally suited as a service dog for Alberta.

We specialize in training Betas because if you either use all reward or all force you will cause problems. You have to know the right amounts of each one to use to maintain a happy dog that is respectful and obedient.

The way the laws are written for training your own service dog make it extremely difficult to have a Beta pass the test. They don’t need a lot of consequence but they do need a little. If a person without dog training experience (even with) could train a Beta on their own to pass the test with no consequences we would be extremely impressed.

The Take Away

For the average person we would recommend:

  1. The less intelligent of a dog the better. They don’t have the intelligence to manipulate.
  2. Strong desire to please – Sometimes you can find dogs that have such a strong desire to please and have intelligence. We would call these the “unicorns” almost mythical type creature 🙂
  3. Low energy – They are required to stay with the handler. Typically walking or laying next to them. A highly energetic dog would not be suitable for this.

We have a lot of people contact us who want to train their own service dog for Alberta and already have the dog. Based on the dogs personality, many we can tell would be virtually impossible to have pass the test. So if you are reading this and wanting to train your own service dog make sure you pick the right dog because dogs vary widely in personality and traits. We hate to see people put in a lot of time and effort to only be discouraged when the dog cannot pass the test.

This can be like trying to get a Ferrari to win the Baja 1000 desert race. Fast car, great for some races, but not a desert race.

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Do You Have to Say Commands Loud?

It is common to hear you need to say a command loud or with authority to your dog to get them to listen. The assumption being that when you say it loud the dog views you as an authoritative figure and will listen to you.

So if you say it quietly or with a softer voice does that mean you are seen as weak and not a position of authority?

We have found an alternate theory that appears to be the correct theory. Let me explain.

There is a Core Rule we follow called the A to B Rule. This means you want to get your dog to do your goal (B) and your starting point (A) is the easiest version you can get your dog to do.

Dogs won’t do what you want automatically in most cases, they need to be taught through a process.

When you do increase a level of difficulty moving from A to B, since there are often multiple steps to get towards B, a dog will make mistakes. For example a dog can learn to do sit or down in the house no problem but as soon as you go outside they won’t do it at all. Outside they are distracted. It can take a bit before they will focus and listen. Next thing you know the dog is doing great outside.

Then you go to practice sit or down near other dogs or people and your dog is no longer listening. Again the distractions have increased. With practice the dog can start listening around dogs or people. There are many tips to help with that but that would require several different articles to cover that.

Here is where we find saying commands loud or with force comes in. A dog is often trained to do their commands at home with no distractions and once they understand we expect that they should do them anywhere.

So now when you go outside and give a sit or down command and your dog doesn’t listen we think they are being stubborn. This is often where saying the command loudly comes into effect. By saying it loud you will increase the amount the dog listens and to start with they will definitely comply better by saying it loud.

But is it necessary?

The way we set it up: We practice commands in low distraction just like mentioned above. However when we increase distractions we know a dog will make mistakes so we keep saying it in a regular tone of voice and use the other tricks of the trade to get the dog to focus on us. Once they are listening well we then increase distractions again. Same thing, dog stops listening and you go through the same process.

We teach the dog that even if we say the command in a regular voice we will still make them follow through. This teaches them to listen with a regular tone of voice.

To make this even better we use a Super Proofing technique which is a part of the A to B Rule. For this we will start saying the commands in a whisper. Start in low distractions first and work you way up A to B like we did with regular commands. Once a dog listens to whisper commands a regular tone of voice command will seem like a piece of cake.

Where Raising Voice Goes Wrong

By raising your voice when distractions are first increased we start teaching a dog that we will only make them follow through once we raise our voice. To start with they don’t understand what we want anyway. But by raising your voice they get into the habit of only listening when your voice is raised.

This would be similar to the parent you see that always yells at their child and the child eventually tunes them out and the yelling isn’t all that effective.

We were working with a client that we explained this theory to and he laughed and said he raised his kids the same. He said he only raised his voice about 3 times with them when they were younger and he said any time he did they started crying because they knew he really meant business.

We had an incident a few summers back where we had 3 dogs outside and a badger came to the corner of our house. The dogs went running over, badger bit a dog, dog bit the badger back, badger let go. When I saw this I came running outside and yelled “Leave it!” The dogs immediately ran away from the badger. My wife called the dogs in the house and I chased the badger away.

I never raise my voice but when I do the dogs really know to listen. This helps out with safety. Had I always raised my voice the dogs would have thought it was just like any regular day. But since I never do they really know to pay attention.

So there you have my theory on saying commands loud. I have trained numerous dogs to listen in a regular voice or whisper commands with high level distractions. No need to raise a voice.


When distractions are raised a dog will always make mistakes. This means they don’t understand what you want anyway. This is where most people start raising their voice, some start even before this. The dog then gets into the habit of only listening when your voice is raised.

Tip: Only give a command if you can make the dog follow through on the command. The most common place to start yelling commands is when a dog is off-leash and not listening. There are some easy fixes to completely prevent that or fix it if it has become a problem. We cover this in recall training with clients.

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Energy Spectrum – Are You Training Your Dog at the Right Energy Level?

We find that how energetic a dog is makes a big difference in what you should be training.

Let’s say you want to train your dog how to Loose Leash Walk. Many people think if their dog is hyper they should take them for a walk and also work at teaching their dog to walk nicely on leash. This is one of the hardest times to train walking is when the dog is super hyper.

By exercising the dog first a person will find it much easier to train loose leash walking.

This is the order we go in for training:

  1. Hyper (dog wants to run) – Recall, Fetch, Tug, Agility, Tracking, Pulling Sports
  2. Lively (dog feels like walking) – Loose Leash Walking
  3. Medium (dog feels like sitting) – Work on sitting
  4. Relaxing (dog feels like down) – Work on down.
  5. Mellowing Out (dog feels like staying in one spot) – Work on stay.
  6. Getting tired – Greeting Guests (less likely to jump and get excited when guests come over.
  7. Really tired (dog is passed out) – Work on separation anxiety or desensitizing to distractions.

So even if a dog is passed out tired, this is when we will load the dog in the vehicle and go for a car ride. They are sleepy, lay down and remain calm and quiet. This becomes the dogs habit when getting into a vehicle. Usually if the dog is hyper a person may load them up to take them somewhere like a park to run. The dog’s habit when they get in a vehicle is to be super excited, possibly barking or whining.

We developed this technique when we were doing Board and Train. If you only have 4 weeks to train a dog that knows nothing to knowing all of their commands extremely well you want to ensure that every single second the dog is doing a good behaviour. Trying to fight the Energy Spectrum just created a nightmare. Imagine you want to train a dog to stay and you are doing it when the dog is hyper. The dog wants to leave their spot, or they may bark or whine. If they keep practicing those negative behaviours, they will get better at those negative behaviours. If you train stay when the dog is getting sleepy, their habit is to be calm and quiet when told to stay.

So take it from me, if you want to make your life easy, follow the Energy Spectrum. If you fight it, it will make your life much more difficult.

In the case of training stay, you eventually want the dog to stay even if they are hyper. The way we would deal with this is by working on stay during week one when the dog was good and tired to help build the habit. Week two we would work on stay when the dog was half full of energy. Week three we would work on stay when they were 3/4 to full energy. You build the dog’s energy back in as if it were a distraction, since it is a distraction.

So next time you go to take your dog for a walk when they are hyper and not great on leash you should really rethink and maybe go play tug or fetch instead. Maybe have them pull weights or run them on the treadmill. Take them somewhere to run and burn off steam. Then go for your walk. I already spent years making this mistake for you. I can tell you it doesn’t work very well. This mistake is excellent at producing frustration or creating new swear words. Maybe your day at work went way too good that day and you really need to bring it down a few notches. If that is the case take a dog that is not trained and super hyper and go for a walk. That should bring it down a few notches to a mediocre or glum day if that is what you are going for.

If you need advice on making any other mistakes, let me know. I am an Expert Mistake Maker. They say Edison failed 1000 times when making the light bulb and when asked about it he didn’t view them as mistakes he said “I know 1000 ways how not to make a light bulb”.

If there’s a way to do something wrong, I’ll find it. However all of these mistake are not in vain. Clients do benefit from them. Not only can I tell you what ways work well, I can tell you many ways that do not work well. Sometimes knowing the things not to do are as important or more important than knowing what to do. “Don’t stick your finger in there, it will chop your finger off.” Good to know, I’ll keep my finger out of there then.

When you have two hyper huskies each tied to the opposite end of a 100 foot rope. Make sure you are paying attention and don’t let that rope lay behind you while the huskies take off in front of you or you will end up on your back winded, looking at the sky and worried about these huskies running away from you the longer you stay on the ground out of breath. How do I know that? You bet, been there done that. That’s another thing you can cross off your list not to try 🙂

Well this was fun. Hope you have a great day! (Remember if it was too good a day, make sure you take a hyper untrained dog for a walk).

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Dogs Off-Leash in On-Leash Areas – Problem?

I remember when my wife and I got our first dog and I was just entering into Dog Training. Our neighbourhood in Calgary had a nice pathway system next to it and it was away from any major roads. I used to take our dog off-leash in this on-leash area so that he could have a better run.

I remember one evening it was getting a bit darker and a guy was coming around the corner and our dog went running over to him and you the guy froze up and you could tell he was a bit scared. He then sternly said “Put your dog on leash!” I replied “He is friendly.” I thought what kind of a jerk doesn’t like dogs. You are in the wrong city if you don’t like dogs. All I could think about was how wrong he was and that it should be fine that I had our dog off-leash since he was friendly.

Years later I now work with a lot of people who are trying to rehabilitate dogs. They can have fear issues, fear aggression issues or dominance aggression issues toward other dogs. In order to rehabilitate these dogs they need to practice in the presence of other dogs while they focus on their owners. They need to build trust and see that their owner will keep them safe. I tell people to go near pathways where dogs are required to be on-leash to practice.

I receive frequent e-mails from these clients explaining how tough it is to train their dog because there are so many other dogs that come running over to them and the dog they are trying to rehabilitate. I would then tell them “Oh, just make sure you are in an area where dogs are required to be on-leash.” They tell me they are in an area where dogs are required to be on-leash.

These clients may be working with dogs that have certain aggression problems whether it is fear or dominance based. Other people’s dogs will go running up and their owners will say “It’s ok he’s friendly.” My clients will reply “My dog is not! Please call your dog back.”

There are so many dogs out there that are super good with other dogs. Many people their entire lives have never seen a dog with a really bad problem. It is easy to start assuming that all other dogs are just as good with other dogs as their dog is.

Thes people that let their dogs roam free in on-leash areas love their dogs and they love other dogs. They just want to give them the best exercise and life that they can.

I am not entirely opposed to having a dog off-leash in an on-leash area but what I think would be better for all is to assume that other people don’t always want your dog coming up or other dogs may not always be good with other dogs. If you do want to have your dog roam off-leash in an on-leash area it would be best to do so when there are no other dogs or people around. If you do see another person or dog you should call your dog back to you and assume that your dog should not engage that other dog or person unless that other person asks if you want to let them engage or if they can pet your dog.

Some of these dogs that are roaming off-leash don’t have the best of obedience. People often find they listen good enough and will come back in a bit after they call them which may be after they went up to greet another dog or person. They also don’t pull like crazy on leash if they are allowed to roam free which makes it more enjoyable for a walk. If this is the case these people may want to invest a bit of time in training their dog to walk nicely on leash and have top notch recall. That would greatly help out the people who are trying to rehabilitate their dogs.

You see the people who let dogs roam off-leash in on-leash areas and the people who are trying to rehabilitate dogs and give them a second chance both love dogs. They are the same people down to heart. However they can butt heads because the people who are trying to rehabilitate want the other dogs to be on-leash and the people who let their dogs roam off-leash think the other people didn’t do a good enough job at this or that and that is why their dog is the way they are.

It helps to think of this from a human example. A dog that is fear aggressive is a dog that has either had a bad encounter with another dog and turned fear aggressive or is a dog that didn’t encounter enough other dogs during their socialization period as a puppy (that doesn’t mean they have to go and play with a bunch of other dogs it just means they have to see a lot of other dogs while they focus on their handler). So let’s say it was a bad encounter they had with another dog. That would be the same thing as if you were mugged  and attacked by a random stranger. Now imagine after that you are out for a walk and all of these random strangers come running up to you. You can imagine that it would cause you a great deal of stress. If you are walking down a street and see hundreds or thousands of different people can you tell which one has been mugged or attacked before? Usually no, it can be really difficult to tell. The same would go for picking out dogs that have been attacked before.

In the case of Dominance Aggression these dogs are not afraid they just want to take out all other competition or hurt them bad enough to let those other dogs know not to mess with them. These are the dogs you really want to be careful around. Many people have not encountered these types of dogs before so from my own personal experience I will give you examples to know what they might be like. These are the types of dogs where I have received phone calls where the owner says my dog escaped the front door and almost ripped the back end off a dog going passed on a sidewalk. I don’t think the dog will make it, what should I do. Or where the neighbours dog got out and this person went to go and put that dog back in the neighbours yard and this person’s own dog escaped his yard and came and killed the dog right there on the street and the owner himself, a grown man, couldn’t stop it from happening. I could go on with more stories than there should be but just to educate people these dogs do exist. Luckily there aren’t many but they are out there. For your own dog’s safety you will want to ensure they are well trained and will come when called right away. I always ensure I know and trust the other dog first before I let our dogs encounter that dog.

So if you are the same as I was and thought dogs should be allowed to roam free because everyone should love dogs and if they don’t then there is something wrong with them. I ask you to put yourself into the shoes of others who are trying to give other dogs a second chance to have the same good quality of life that your dog has. Be courteous and set an awesome example. Show off how well your dog loves their life and how well trained they are. Some other people and dogs have had a rough go or a bad experience. We can do our part to ensure everyone can enjoy their walks and lives.

If you are like I was you can go about and make the necessary changes. If you have friends that do the same explain this to them as well. You have no idea how happy you will make people who are rehabilitating dogs if you keep your dog by your side. You should feel good about that. You have aided those dogs in their recovery and you have set an example for the other people and why they are doing what they do to achieve the same level that you yourself have achieved.

Assume this Mantra: My dog will stay with me by my side when encountering other dogs or people until they are requested to be met or engaged.

Thank you in advance for making the necessary changes. The good you are doing for other dogs and people will be far greater than you will ever know.

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The Progression of Dog and Human

It has been interesting to watch the progression of Dog and Human over the last several hundred years. For hundreds of years humans have bred dogs to have specific drives, personalities and temperament to match the job required. In the last few decades it has become more popular to rescue dogs from all different mixes, personalities, temperaments and drives.

The way a dog used to be chosen and bred was through this process:

  1. Intended Job – What job do you need the dog to do?
  2. Temperament / Drive / Personality – Determine what would be the best temperament, drive and personality for that job.
  3. Breed Selectively – Take dogs with traits close to what you are looking for and breed them together until you achieve the desired natural temperament, drive and personality.
  4. Training is a piece of cake – Since they are naturally suited for this job they quite often require little to no training.
  5. Life is Peachy

The new process is more like this:

  1. What looks pretty? – Choose a dog based on what looks cute. This can be through a breeder or a rescue.
  2. Find out what natural temperament, drive and personality they have after they have been acquired.
  3. Contact a Trainer (some do fine as is and others require training)
  4. Try to have the natural temperament, drive and personality trained out of the dog. Essentially we are trying to fight Mother Nature’s Natural Recipe.

I am not sure what caused the shift from purpose to looks. I don’t know why a dog that wins breeding shows achieves higher prices than a dog that was bred properly for health and a specific job or task.

Another interesting change is the thought people have on rescuing a dog. You quite often hear people say “Why would I buy a dog from a breeder when there are so many rescue dogs looking for a home?” I can understand getting a rescue but I am not too sure about that statement. First a person would have to ask themselves “Why are there so many dogs that need to be rescued?” To me it seems there has been a lot of excessive breeding which can constitute poor breeding or mismatched homes for the dogs bred. If you have ever talked to a responsible breeder, this is what you will find: They have a list of people looking for a dog. They then screen those people to ensure they are the right match for that breed of dog. If they are not the right match then they do not receive a dog. The breeder then breeds accordingly to the supply required. So in essence if a person wants to get a rescue and not support breeding it seems as though they are only supporting the irresponsible breeders as those dogs get surrendered or they breed beyond their supply requirements. The responsible breeders carefully select forever homes for these dogs and have “no breeding contracts” signed so these dogs are not allowed to be bred. They also have in the contract that if circumstances change the dog comes back to the breeder and they find another properly matched home. I do find it very difficult to find a responsible breeder as more seem to be in it for the wrong reason than the right reason. In my opinion the right reason is breeding a dog for the family requirements which is generally these days a pet. If you want an example of a responsible breeder you should check out They are even approved by the Calgary Humane Society.

The reason I find these changes interesting is that it causes so many people a lot of grief, stress, frustration, money and sometimes ends relationships. If the order was switched back around to first and foremost choosing the job required of the dog and then selecting the dog from there it would make things go much more smoothly.

Every now and then I work with a client who has purchased a dog from a responsible breeder and I ask them the process in how they chose the dog. This is what they say:

  1. We decided what kind of dog we wanted as a pet. We wanted a nice temperament and eager to please dog that we can take camping or on trips with us.
  2. We then searched for a breeder that was responsible.
  3. We went to check out the puppies and we chose one that had a nice bond with us that wasn’t clawing all over us. They had a nice easy temperament.
  4. We then wanted to ensure that dog was trained properly so we researched trainers and came across your website. We really agreed with your philosophies and loved the video on your website and thought we want our dog to be like that.
  5. Here we are, ready to do the learning and the training. We want to spend time with our dog and ensure they are well trained.

I tell these people to tell everyone they know how they chose their dog. Tell them that a dog trainer who works with the worst of the worst for dog behavioural problems wants you to spread the word to as many people as possible on how to properly choose a dog. You guys nailed this 100%.

There are rescue dogs that can also be temperament tested. This is a bit harder as you don’t know what the parents were like. The other big issue if you are getting an older dog is to not know what their past experiences were like and what they have been socialized to. Properly socializing a puppy is an extremely important process to success with training.

Here is a common list of problems we deal with. They are so common that my wife can list what the problem is when a client phones and I can guess what the breed of dog is.

  • Border Collie – Chases anything with wheels and tries to bite tires or herd children or other dogs.
  • Rottweiler / Cane Corso / Mastiff – Too protective and won’t let people in the house or may try to lunge at people if they are too close on a walk.
  • Husky – Pulls on leash and is too hyper.
  • Pitbull – Aggressive with other dogs and is too hyper.
  • Terrier – Won’t listen and wants to chase squirrels and rabbits

The list is quite long but that will give you some ideas. These are all traits that have been bred into these dogs (some breeders have bred traits out of them so that is why it is important to know what the breeder breeds for).

Now you can see what the progression has been and how to better select the right dog for yourself. The message you should take from this is:

  1. Choose a dog based on the order it has been done in for hundreds of years and you will be happy.
  2. Choose a dog based on the wrong order and you can be setting yourself up for a whole lot of grief.

Happy Dog Training!

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Pack / Herd / Flock Mentality

I am a big fan of nature. I love animals and I love watching their interactions. We just had a funny occurrence here between one of our chickens and one of our dogs.

Chickens, just like dogs have a Pack Mentality. Chickens have a “Pecking Order” (that is where the term Pecking Order comes from if you didn’t already know this). At mass produced chicken barns they clip the beaks off the end of the chickens. This is to ensure that they do not kill too many other chickens. When you have 10 chickens, the lowest ranking chicken may get pecked by 9 other chickens. When you have 10,000 chickens then they may get pecked by 9, 999 other chickens. Once a wound is opened up on a chicken the other chickens will continue to peck at that wound until the chicken is dead.

Back to the main story – Our Husky / Coyote cross named Enzo was eating an apple off our Apple Tree. Nine of our chickens were out running around the yard. The highest ranking chicken we have is named Mother Clucker. None of the other chickens mess with Mother Clucker. If a dog comes up to the chicken tractor she is the first one there ready to peck at them. As the Alpha chicken she has rights to more things than the other chickens. So Mother Clucker and all the other chickens love apples. Mother Clucker decides to strut over to Enzo as he is eating his apple. You will never see this instance in nature. A coyote cross or pure coyote would definitely stop eating his apple and go kill the chicken and eat the chicken. However since the chickens are a part of our pack (The dogs weren’t convinced they should be a part of the pack but since I am the leader and I said the chickens are a part of our pack the dogs agreed) order would have to be set out between everyone. Mother Clucker thinks she has the right to take from whoever she wants. So she went to take a piece of Enzo’s apple and he growled at her. She took another piece and Enzo went “Bark! Bark! Bark!” and Mother Clucker went running. Pack Structure was then once again restored. For those of you that don’t speak dog, Enzo said “Go get your own bleepin apple you bleepin chicken!”

I do love watching how animals that were never meant to be in a Pack together can then become pack members and not view each other as predator and prey. All animals as far as I know seem to have a hierarchy. When it comes to training dogs if you are not seen as the Alpha Dog then you will get no where with training. The only reason our dogs get along with chickens is that all of us have agreed that I am boss. Whatever the boss says, goes. Many people have tremendous difficulty training their dog because they do not provide clear leadership and rules. It is common to think that spoiling a dog will make them happy. This I find to be very untrue. The more you make a dog work and provide them with clear leadership the happier they are. You will also have a lot more peace within your Pack.

I would also like to take this time to remember our chicken Ginger who passed away recently. Ginger was a very sweet and calm tempered chicken. We miss you Ginger and will never forget you.

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Introducing Young Children To Your Dog

We just recently had a 1.5 year old little girl come to our house. So far we have only had a little baby and a 5 year old boy come to our house. This is what we do to ensure success:

Pack Structure in Place – Dogs that know their position in the Pack do much better with children. Spoiling dogs leads to the biggest chance of bites and aggression toward children. Having a dog work and understand their rules goes a long way towards being good with children. It can be very difficult for a dog to view children as higher ranking and respect them. By following Pack Structure rules you really help to ensure success.

Premack Principle – Associating good things to children. When we had the 1.5 year old girl here we did a number of things to associate good things with her to our German Shepherd:

  1. Fetch – Delta loves fetch so we will play fetch while the little girl is present.
  2. Find your ball – Delta loves to find her ball in the house so we would play that game with the little girl running around.
  3. Tracking – We had the little girl and her mother go and hide on our property and off our property with Delta’s favorite ball. Delta loves to track after we taught her how to last summer. Delta found them in short order and her ball was tossed to her.

No Petting – Many people think you have to have the child pet the dog. This is one of the biggest chances for a dog to bite a child. All that you have to do to socialize a dog to a small child is play their favorite games next to the child. Delta was walking right passed the little girl playing games. The little girl could reach out and touch her but this was not necessary at all. This whole petting idea to socialize a dog can create a lot of problems.

When Delta was a puppy we would play a CD with the sounds of children playing while we played a game with Delta. I would also take Delta around schools and daycares on the opposite side of the fence just slightly away from the children playing and I would play games with Delta there and work on obedience.

I would also do things to Delta that a child likely would not do. I would practice playing a game and pull on her ears or her tail or legs. I would grab a handful of hair and pull a bit. We would also put Delta onto her back and wait for her to calm. I would hold her upside down and also cradle her like a baby. We proof a dog up for all of these things just in case a child does something to the dog it is not a surprise to that dog. However I always closely monitor dogs and children. If I cannot then we keep them separated.

Dogs can easily bite children. Some dogs are naturally good and some are naturally not good with children. The higher the pain tolerance a dog has the better they generally are with children. If a child grabs a handful of hair it won’t hurt a dog with a high pain tolerance. If you do this to a dog with low pain tolerance it can hurt the dog a lot which can elicit a bite.

Dogs that bite children are often put down. In almost all of these cases proper prevention and socialization can ensure harmony between dogs and children.

If you have a puppy or dog that you want to be excellent with children, give us a call. We would be more than happy to show you the proper techniques.

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Profit Versus Your Dog

There are many excellent companies out there but one of the biggest problems is that they are often Profit driven. We as consumers have the ultimate say by voting with our money. It is our responsibility to speak up for what we truly want. Let me give you some examples in the Dog World:

Red Moon Pet Food is our preferred choice of kibble and it is what we recommend to anyone in search of a better food. Red Moon up until recently was fully customizable. Let’s list the things that will remain top quality in Red Moon:

  1. Human Grade food ingredients.
  2. Shipped to your house for free (included in the price of the food).
  3. No fillers (corn, grains, gluten)

However it used to be even more awesome when it was customizable:

  1. Supplement Selection – You could select which supplements you wanted (immune system booster, joint reviver, digestion aid, coat health, grass defender {keeps the urine from burning your grass})
  2. Made fresh the day you ordered it – Since it was made in micro batches it would be made fresh and shipped out that day or the next.
  3. Protein Selection – Higher for puppies and lower for adult dogs.
  4. Calorie Selection – High energy or low energy dog.
  5. Name Your Food – You could call it “Rover’s Food” and the food would show up at your door saying “Rover’s Food” on the side of the bag.

So what changed? Red Moon is an Alberta based company which has also expanded into the United States. There are several States that require pre-approved AAFCO labels. Since Red Moon is customizable there are a couple thousand different combinations which would need to be submitted. Red Moon decided to make a more standardized kibble (non-customizable) so that it could be shipped to all of these different states. This was done to help the company grow and increase profits and margins. It is still a good food and we continue to feed it to our dogs but it is not the super awesome food I once knew.

I have sent the owner several e-mails to help sort this problem out to try and get the best possible kibble back for all of the dogs out there. The owner has been very good at answering my questions and is a very nice person.

What are your thoughts? Do you prefer quality over a cheaper product?

Here is another example:

Vet Food often has some of the highest filler content I have seen in any dog food and it sells for a premium. I was told by a Veterinarian that when they go through Vet School, the company that sponsors their education on Pet Nutrition is Hills which is the same company that sells Science Diet. The Vet food often has specialized ingredients that really help a dog out with different health problems. Some I have seen even create more problems for the dog. So why not make a Vet food with no fillers? The most simple answer is profit.

I myself support top quality products whenever I can. If a company is putting people and nature before profit I always try to support them. The problem is that this can be expensive. When you are making less money you try to go the cheapest route possible. In my first years of Dog Training I know exactly what that is all about. If you have the extra dollars to support these companies I urge you to do so.  If you are on a budget you can help spread the word about companies that you want to support.

In our business there are several things I know that I could do to be able to produce more profit for us. The issue is that I know this is not what is best for our clients and their dogs so we do not implement these ideas. People often say we are crazy to offer additional support and coaching as well as any questions answered for the life of the dog. Sure this may take up more of our time but money plays a secondary role. It is true that like everyone else we need to make enough money to be able to allow us to live and continue to help other dogs. However we always ensure dogs are first in any decision we make. Any increase in profit is a bonus.

So my question is: Do you prefer to support companies that put people and nature first or profit? What do you think about Red Moon removing their customization? Would you prefer to see customization back in effect? The more people that do, the better. I will continue to ensure we look out for what is best for dogs. We would be very happy with any support we receive from you. Just voicing your opinion goes a long way.

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Spring – An Excellent Time To Get A Puppy

Spring is one of the best times to get a puppy. This is the time that Nature would naturally produce Coyote and Wolf pups. There are natural reasons for this such as:

  • Easier to find food.
  • Weather is more pleasant – higher survivability rate.
  • Pups will have grown and learned how to hunt prior to a more difficult winter.

Here are some reasons why Spring is such a good time for people to get puppies:

  • You will be more likely to take a pup out to socialize them.
  • Pup will experience thunderstorms in their socialization period.

Proper Socialization is the absolute number one key for having the perfect dog. Improper socialization or lack of socialization ruins more dogs than any other variable. Here are the rules for Socialization as a puppy:

  1. Whatever a puppy has a good experience with they will tend to like later on.
  2. Whatever a puppy has a bad experience with they will tend to dislike later on.
  3. Whatever a puppy has no experience with they will tend to dislike later on.

Many little dogs end up with Fear Aggression problems because they are easier to keep inside and more likely to be trained to go pee on a pee pad. There are two main causes for a small dog to develop Fear Aggression:

  1. Lack of proper socialization.
  2. People spoiling the dogs which in turn makes them think they are a higher ranking pack member and can control the rest of the Pack and strangers through aggression.

Here is a really good thing to keep in mind for training a dog: Once a dog understands their commands and obedience, everything else is considered a distraction. I could say my dog will sit in the house but will my dog sit with 100 rabbits running around? It is the exact same behaviour the only difference is the distractions have changed. If your puppy does not see anything else as a distraction then your training will be a piece of cake. This is why proper socialization is so extremely important. One key thing I will do with a puppy is take them to all different kinds of distractions and make them do Sits & Downs for their kibble. This is a very easy step to socialize a puppy properly and can make your training later on 1000 times easier and that is no exaggeration.

What are the cons of taking a puppy out early for socialization? A puppy is a lot more susceptible to contracting Parvo Virus prior to having all of their vaccinations up to date. This is the single biggest factor in why puppies do not get proper socialization. People are afraid to take their puppy out until they have full vaccination. I myself feel that it is very well worth the risk of taking a puppy out so that they can be properly socialized. You must take as many precautions as possible. Avoid areas with other dogs and especially avoid other dogs feces.

You could be a very cautious person and only let your dog in your own backyard to avoid Parvo. However a bird could easily eat the feces of an infected dog with Parvo and fly into your own backyard and eat food out of your dog’s food dish or infect something else your puppy may get into. This would be an extremely rare case but it still could happen.

Let me tell you a couple of stories relating to improper socialization. The first story is the worst I have come across. This lady had a Weimaraner puppy and was so fearful of her dog contracting any diseases that she did not take her puppy out anywhere until he was fully vaccinated and she did not even allow guests over for fear of them bringing in a disease on their footwear. This dog became extremely reactive to people and other dogs with severe aggression. No one else other than this lady could get anywhere near her dog. There was no way she could go on holidays and have someone else look after the dog. Going for a walk was a complete nightmare and dangerous to anyone else around.

I have worked with several dogs that were a breeding dog and located on a breeders farm. Those dogs were perfectly accustomed to people coming over and the sounds from the farm. Some of these dogs then go to homes in the city at 2 years of age. Many are very fearful of everything around them.

When I am working with a puppy I socialize them to everything I can think of in a positive way including: farm animals, car washes, vehicles, buses, construction equipment, air craft, dogs, cats, things blowing in the wind, gun fire, people, etc.

Here is a very common problem I hear about with puppies over and over again when it comes to socialization. Many people think you need to socialize your puppy to as many other dogs as possible to have a very well socialized dog. Let me clarify this and pay very close attention to what I am about to say. It is important to socialize your puppy around other good dogs that you know and trust. Having your puppy get mauled by another aggressive dog can cause major problems. Do not trust another persons word that their dog is friendly! I have heard and witnessed many cases where other people say “Do you want to let our dogs greet? Mine is friendly.” Only to then have their dog attack the puppy. You do not know what another person’s definition of friendly is. One time several years ago I was walking our dog Enzo on a trail and a person approaching said “Is your dog friendly?” I said “Yes he is.” He said, “Mine too, do you want to let them greet?” His dog had a muzzle on and was snarling and lunging at my dog. I am not sure what his definition of friendly was but it was not the same as my definition of friendly. I tell people to assume that all other dogs are aggressive or improperly behaved until they have proven to you otherwise. Again Do Not take another person’s word for their dog’s behaviour.

Letting dogs greet on leash is a bad idea for a number of reasons:

  1. It is always the Alpha that greets others first. If you want to be the Pack Leader then you need to greet that other dog first.
  2. Proper dog greeting involves curving where they curve towards each other and then sniff. On a sidewalk or pathway you usually do not have the room to do this.
  3. When dogs are on leash they will tend to pull to go and see the other dog which puts their body language forward and makes them look aggressive which can trigger fights.

All it takes to properly socialize a puppy to other dogs is to have other dogs present while your puppy is focusing on you and ignoring those other dogs. They do not need to go run and wrestle with another dog to become properly socialized to other dogs. Here is a better example of what I mean: When I was socializing Delta (our German Shepherd) to our sheep, I would bring Delta into the sheep pen and make her do commands with the sheep nearby. We did this over and over and now she is excellent with the sheep. She never had to run and bark or nip at them to become socialized to sheep. All that needed to happen was to have the sheep present while Delta was focusing on me. The same can be done with other good dogs or anything else you want to socialize your dog to.


  1. Spring is a good time to get a puppy as it is much easier to work with them in warm weather and socialize them properly.
  2. In my opinion taking a puppy out to socialize them prior to full vaccination and risk of contracting Parvo Virus is worth it hands down. You still must maintain caution. Stay away from areas frequented by other dogs. Stay away from dog feces. Only bring your puppy around other dogs you trust and you know are fully vaccinated.
  3. Socialization (Proper) is the biggest key to success. Obedience is a piece of cake to train. A well socialized dog makes all the difference in your training success.
  4. All it takes to socialize a dog properly is to have the distraction present while your dog focuses on you. That’s it, that’s all.
  5. What the majority of the population will tell you to do with your puppy is just plain wrong and bad advice. I could prove this over and over again. Two of the biggest pieces of wrong advice are:
    1. Having dogs greet on leash (WRONG).
    2. Dog parks are necessary to socialize your dog properly (WRONG).

Someday it will be common knowledge to do all of these steps properly. I am making that one of my main goals in life. The more people you can tell about this the better. There is a saying in dog training “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” I do not find this to be true at all. It is more accurate to say “An ounce of prevention is worth 10,000 pounds of cure.” It cannot be emphasized enough how important proper socialization is to ensure your puppy lives the best possible life they can. I absolutely love working with puppies as I know they will go on to live the best life they can. Yes it is true that we are more expensive than a group puppy training class. What is the advantage of coming to see us you ask. I work with some of the worst problem behaviours imaginable. I get to see over and over again where things went wrong. These dogs all started off as good puppies but at certain times in their lives the wrong step was taken. I can show you what these wrong steps are and how to avoid them.

It is puppy season and I am very excited. We already have a lot of puppies coming this month and the next. If you want to learn how to have the perfect dog for you then give us a call and we will set you on the right path.

Happy Dog Training!


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